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City lacks Main Street accreditation

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Rocky Mount lost accreditation status with the Main Street revitalization program after 2017 and has not returned to such a standing, a state official told the Telegram.

Liz Parham, who is the state Commerce Department official working with downtown redevelopment efforts throughout North Carolina, said Rocky Mount presently is an affiliate of the Main Street program. In effect, that is a slip of a notch in status.

Parham said accreditation by the Main Street program is important from her perspective because it shows a member has established basic best practices allowing the member to do more advanced downtown economic development initiatives.

Parham said a member should have such practices in place at all times because it is the right thing to do for the member’s community.

“It’s not about checking something off on a score sheet. It’s about, ‘What do you have in your community that allows you to be successful?’” Parham said.

Parham said Rocky Mount did not meet Main Street accreditation standards for both 2018 and 2019.

The Telegram had heard the city of Rocky Mount’s website still referred to the municipality as having an accredited Main Street program and had to correct the wording after Parham and her team saw the posting.

Parham confirmed this, noting the state has a contract with the National Main Street Center, which includes making sure members list their statuses correctly.

As for what happened in Rocky Mount’s case, Parham said, “Sometimes communities fail to update their websites. I don’t think it’s an intentional mistake.”

Specifically, Parham said Rocky Mount failed to meet Main Street accreditation standards for 2019 for five reasons.

Parham said the first reason was because the city did not submit a comprehensive work plan for 2018-19. Parham said Rocky Mount should have a strategic five-year plan to move downtown revitalization forward, as well as a one-year implementation plan.

She said the city did submit a work plan but the document was for 2015-16.

She said the second reason Rocky Mount did not meet accreditation standards for 2019 was because the city did not demonstrate there was a budget allowing funding of operational activities, along with programming components from a variety of sources.

She said the third reason was because a local Main Street director was not marked as checked or one was not in place.

She said the fourth reason was because training for local revitalization board members had not been conducted.

And she said the fifth reason was because the city’s membership with the National Main Street Center had lapsed. She said the city promptly returned to the dues-paying roll.

The National Main Street Center was established in 1980 as a program of the nonprofit, Washington, D.C.-based National Trust for Historic Preservation. Generally the Main Street program emphasizes economic development within the context of historic preservation.

Parham said Rocky Mount joined the Main Street program in 1982 but that the city’s participation was short-lived.

Parham said the National Main Street Center in 2001 started having accredited members.

Also in 2001, Rocky Mount re-entered the Main Street program with approximately 135 people attending a ceremony at the then-renovated train station.

“Sunset Avenue is not the heart of Rocky Mount,” then-City Manager Steve Raper was quoted as saying, noting neither is Wesleyan Boulevard nor Tiffany Boulevard. “It’s Main Street. It’s Church Street. It’s Washington Street. It’s downtown.”

Parham said Rocky Mount was an accredited member of the Main Street program from 2006-10 and returned to accreditation status in 2016.

The city has been without a downtown development manager since John Jesso’s departure last year. Jesso had served in the position since 2014.

Kevin Harris is the city’s business development manager and is doubling as acting downtown development manager.

David Wise is the new downtown community development coordinator, having come from Colorado and having worked in Main Street revitalization efforts there. Harris has said Wise also is serving as administrator of Rocky Mount’s Main Street program.

The Telegram sought comment from the municipal government and received a brief reply relayed from spokesman Jessie Nunery.

Nunery said that, per City Community and Business Development Director Landis Faulcon, the pursuit of being accredited will be a discussion for the Central City Revitalization Panel.

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